On December 9, 2014, DOL published a final rule implementing Executive Order 13672—covered briefly in our October 2014 Quarterly—which extends non-discrimination prohibitions enforced by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance (“OFCCP”) to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. 79 Fed. Reg. 72,985. The final rule, which is effective on April 8, 2015, does not substantially alter the existing equal employment opportunity regulations. Instead, the rule simply adds the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of prohibited bases for discrimination.

The final rule requires the use of a new equal employment opportunity clause in new or modified contracts, subcontracts, and purchase orders to state that employees and applicants will be treated without regard to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Moreover, contractors will need to update the equal employment opportunity language in job solicitations and posted workplace notices to reflect these prohibitions. However, unlike the equal employment opportunity regulations governing gender, race, and ethnicity, the new rule, as relates solely to sexual orientation and gender identity, does not impose on contractors any data collection and reporting requirements and it does not impose any affirmative action obligation on federal contractors (to take steps to actively recruit candidates that fall within those non-discrimination categories). Moreover, the final rule does not require employers to ask applicants or employees to self-identify their sexual orientation or gender identity.

While the new rule is fairly straightforward, it is nevertheless essential that contractors update their internal policies and operating procedures. In light of the flurry of labor reform issues over the course of the past year, clients are encouraged to take the New Year as an opportunity to initiate a thorough review of current equal opportunity policies to ensure a smooth transition to the new regulatory landscape.